about BEMA

"BEMA" is a Hebrew word that refers to the elevated platform in the center of the synagogue where the people of God read the Text.  The community of God's people did not gather in buildings that faced a stage with an audience, but rather they allowed their gathering to reflect what they hoped to be true of their lives — revolving around the Word of God.  God had spoken — are we listening?

In 2008, Marty Solomon (current Associate Campus Pastor with Impact Campus Ministries and then Director of Outreach at Twin Falls Reformed Church) had the incredible opportunity to travel to Israel and study under Ray VanderLaan for two weeks.  The experience changed his life forever.  It seemed as though every mental image he had been given throughout his life was discarded and replaced by the things that he saw and learned.

After his return to Israel and then to Turkey with VanderLaan in 2010, more pieces began to find there place in Marty's conscience.  He said he noticed three major things:

1)  The people of Jesus' day understood their Text.  They knew their Bibles better than we ever could dream of knowing them.  This wouldn't be nearly that important, except that the entirety of Jesus' ministry and then the ministry of those he sent out to change the world was based on a deep understanding and teaching of this very Text.  The apostles turned the world upside down by using God's word to subvert the stated realities of the Roman Empire.  This realization was bolstered by VanderLaan's insistence that God's word is powerful and "never returns void, but always accomplishes its purpose".

2)  The people of the early church were deeply committed to telling a different story with their lives.  Their primary question was not whether or not something was "OK" or permissible.  Their main concern was whether or not that very thing was constructive.  What kind of story did that action tell?  What were they saying about the God that they served?  What did they truly believe about that God?  If their actions did not tell the story of that God to the world, then they must be participating in some form of idolatry.  This was an intense love for God that cost His people dearly, yet redeemed the chaos all around them.  

3)  The early church was committed to loving others.  They subverted all the cultural assumptions about the worth of people.  They actively believed that every human being was made in the image of the Creator and had value and worth.  Any system that sought to divide and distinguish and devalue must be subverted.   People must be redeemed.

Upon arrival back in the states, Marty had a deep conviction that a very similar model of rabbinic, first-century discipleship could be recreated and pursued within our culture.  Such a system could have at least the same impact on our culture that it had on the Roman Empire almost 2,000 years ago.  Though the experiment will be flawed, that is what BEMA Discipleship is all about.  

We have crafted a three-phase discipleship experience geared towards trying to pursue many of the same things that Jesus' disciples were pursuing within their own cultural context.  

PHASE 1: A two-year intensive study of the biblical narrative.  What is this story that God tells?  Where does it begin?  How does it end?  Where do we find ourselves in that story?  The goal is to give the disciples a first-hand knowledge of God's story as it's seen in the Text.  The story of God is powerful and His word never returns void.

PHASE 2: An intensive, 18-day study tour in Israel and Turkey where our goal is to "look carefully and listen closely" (Ezekiel 40:4) to the story of God's shalom as it strikes out against the lie of Empire.  There is no experience that can be manufactured to duplicate the fire and passion that will be lit in the disciples as they stand in the very places where Jesus uttered his words or where ancient believers gave their lives to preserve a story that we are a part of today.

PHASE 3: "Come. Follow me."  This was the invitation of the ancient rabbis.  Some of these students will come back from PHASE 2 with a fire in their bellies to never be the same again; to never buy into the same old gods again.  To those who have counted the cost, the invitation will be given.  This is where true discipleship begins.   A 24/7 commitment to live within Christian community and challenge the narrative of empire all around us.  To love our enemies.  To live lives of generosity.  To take care of the alien and orphan and widow.  

To love God.
To love others.
To become people of the Text. 

This is the call of BEMA Discipleship and we truly believe that with God's help and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit -- we just might change the world.

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you... I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing... if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
 ~ John 15:4-8

"May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi."